Tue, 5 Aug 2008 08:18:24 -0500
All of which reminds me of my favorite technology story.
The Germans built the Bismark battleship with the newest of everything.
The anti-aircraft system was radar controlled. It wasn't going to waste a
lot of ammunition with mere human aim. It was as modern as anything could
be -- and presumed the enemy would be just as modern. It couldn't be set to
track anything going less than about 200 mph.
Unfortunately, in 1940 the Brits had not had time to modernize their
torpedo planes and were still flying old biplanes -- Fairey Swordfish --
that lumbered along at (I kid you not) less than 100 miles per hour. Some
dozen and a half attacked the Bismark and severely damaged the battleship.
It couldn't do anything but go in circles and wait for the Royal Navy to
surround it and use it for target practice. Not a single one of the
airplanes was shot down.
The Bismark, which had terrorized the Atlantic and sent the HMS Hood to
the bottom with 1400 men with one well-aimed radar-controlled salvo, was
beat by over-engineering.
No Twain connection, but he would have loved the hubris and the irony.